Last year, we began the huge task of upgrading our Jean Byrd big cat sanctuary in the north of Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa to enhance the quality of care we provide the big cats and improve safety standards. Shamwari provides lifetime care to lions and leopards kept illegally as pets or rescued from zoos, circuses and other captive facilities around the world.
A number of projects were undertaken, including replacing the entire perimeter fence – the first time this had been done in 13 years. Quite an undertaking considering the area covered and the terrain. The animal enclosure fences were also replaced and new gates installed to ensure everyone remains safe. New night houses were built in each enclosure, which enable closer monitoring of the big cats – if and when necessary.
An additional animal enclosure was constructed to increase the sanctuary’s capacity to rehome more rescued animals. King arrived at Shamwari last July and has benefitted from the upgrades. The next arrivals will be the Lions of Lyon. Once all the required permits and travel arrangements have been secured, they too will enjoy the upgraded facilities.
Indigenous plants and trees have been planted in and around the enclosures to enrich the environment for the big cats. They also provide more shade for the hot summer months and frosty mornings in winter, and privacy for the big cats when they don’t feel like being out in the open or seen. The plants and trees also support the vital smaller species in the natural ecosystem including insects and birds.
Catherine Gillson, our Born Free Centre Manager said, “The new facilities have made such a difference in the lives of our big cats as well as our team that care for them. The addition of the sixth enclosure has provided space desperately needed to help other big cats currently living in inhumane conditions.”
The Julie Ward Education Centre also received a makeover with walls painted, new information boards erected, and television equipment upgraded. Here, international visitors and local school children watch videos and learn all about the welfare and conservation threats affecting big cats and other wild species today, our work to help tackle these issues, and the stories of the big cats we care for.
Even with all the disruption of the building work, our dedicated Shamwari team stoically continued to carry out their everyday duties and activities as efficiently as ever. What a team!